Ann Stokes - By John Golding
The most compelling and insistent characteristic of Ann Stokes' pottery is its physicality and, concomitant to this, its generosity.
She is a purely instinctive artist.
She pots as others might sing or hum to themselves, or as we all - quite simply - breathe. She was trained as a dancer. Although she has never specifically said so, she does not seek perfection of shapes or of technique. Rather she is after the telling movement or gesture, the physical act that for her at the moment of creation feels emotionally and psychologically right. To this extent her work, with its innate warmth, belongs to a Mediterranean rather than a Northern tradition of pottery. Many of the works included in the present exhibition were executed and fired in the kiln attached to the nineteenth century hunting-lodge in Italy, near Cortona, where she spends half the year.Ann Stokes has been a potter for over forty years, and her output has been prodigious. Yet she has never repeated herself. There is about her production a constantly ongoing flow, a continuous feeling of excitement and discovery. This is in part at least because in her sources of inspiration she has cast her net so wide. She can be equally inspired by Cretan jugs, ancient Greek vessels (both those cast in clay and those launched in water), Indian art and decoration, Dutch tulip vases, the late paintings of Braque. Her most recent lamps - exotic fish suspended in space - have about them more than a touch of the Casbah. Above all there is present in Ann Stokes' work her love of nature, of plants and of animals. In her pottery she is both painter and sculptor. She favours multicoloured effects, and the gestural marks by which her colour is inflected onto her plates, her platters, her cups and saucers, are bold and telling, totally without inhibition. Her mirrors and her fountains are moulded but also carved. In much of her work one finds images of leaves and flowers, imprinted into the moist clay. Her ultimate symbol,however, is perhaps that of the bird, at times resting but more often in flight, winging its way through the ether.